The small ships of the Taskforce had a number of serious functions to carry out prior to any landing of troops. The defined Total Exclusion Zone had to be dominated, threats from the Argentine Air Force and Naval Air Force had to be responded to, the carriers and support ships needed defending, Argentine forces had to be attacked, harried and frustrated, and for ALACRITY an additional job was identified. San Carlos had been chosen as the beachhead for the retaking of the Islands (we knew this, not because Admiral Woodward had shared the fact with us, but because we heard retired senior officers discussing the options on the BBC World service! Later the planned attack of 2 Para.on Goose Green was also announced on the World Service and luckily the Argentines , who were listening to the BBC, assumed that no country was stupid enough to allow its broadcasters to transmit real intentions!).
Admiral Woodward in his book 'One Hundred Days
' describes the ship as 'Expendable ALACRITY'. He was musing over his decision to send a warship into the sound to test the approaches to San Carlos. Amphibious ships, ships taken up from trade (STUFT) and escorting warships were eventually to enter the waters of Falkland Sound and San Carlos, disembarking troops and stores. Before that could happen Admiral Woodward needed to be sure that the ships could do so with every chance of success. Intelligence identified a minefield had been laid in the approaches to Stanley so it was considered quite possible that mines had also been laid across the entrance to the Sound and approaches to San Carlos. The Admiral needed a mine-sweeper but the nearest was 8,000 miles away. He needed an alternative and one that was expendable. With our recent experience of the Sound it was only reasonable to make use of it and send ALACRITY in again. . On the grand military scale It was certainly more important that he knew the approaches to San Carlos to be free of mines than that ALACRITY survived. Looking back the logic is irrefutable but I'm not sure we saw it that way at the time! The carriers and the troop ships and the ships carrying their stores and equipment were indispensable - without them the Falklands would not be recovered, and the Taskforce would return home with its tail between its legs. The loss of a general purpose frigate would be sad but unlikely to affect the outcome of the war. Our gallant captain, reading between the lines, asked if the admiral would like us to explore the various channels leading into the Sound, making several passes and check for mines. The account of this understanding between two exceptional officers is best read in their respective biographies. Whatever else general purpose frigates are equipped to do, minesweeping was not in the plan. If mines there were then ALACRITY would announce them with her own destruction. This was not a popular choice of activity for the crew but steeled by an extra special meal (we came to be wary when meals became 'special') and confident in our captain and ourselves' it was a case of getting on with the job in hand. If truth be known it was a quieter ship's company that went to action stations that night.
10th MAY: ALACRITY was tasked with sweeping through the Falkland Sound in the first circumnavigation of East Falkland, gathering intelligence and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. ALACRITY detached from the Taskforce on the morning of 10 May and after sweeping well to the south of Argentine radars based at Stanley sailed west at high speed in a welcome fog. The ship's helicopter was launched to recce the southern entrance to the Falkland Sound and with nothing seen that would require a change to the plan, ALACRITY entered the southern entrance at 2300. We were now on our own and well over 100 miles from friendly support should we run into trouble. Thankfully it was a very dark night.
The Lynx was later sent off to harry the garrison in Fox Bay. With ALACRITY less than halfway through the Sound, the Lynx crew turned back to 'Mother' when over the radio came the news that ALACRITY had identified a suspected enemy vessel a few miles ahead. ALACRITY engaged the vessel with the 4.5 gun. Images of 15 rounds of high explosive are seen to converge on the radar target and a lookout reports a large orange flash on the bearing of the target. On the radar the target fades. There were only four survivors of the Argentine Navy supply ship , ISLAS DE LOS ESTADOS though we didn't know details of the ship or losses until much later. Though excitement ran through the ship at having scored a major hit on the enemy, there was a great deal of concern for those lost in the explosion and for those we couldn't stop to rescue (small lights were reported in the water by the Lynx). Surely the Argentines were now wide awake and it was time to head for home. The Lynx was recovered and best speed made to complete the transit, We exited the Sound just before 0200 to be met by ARROW who was standing by to render assistance should we need it. and together headed back towards the relative safety of the Taskforce. What we were to learn much later was that an Argentine submarine, SAN LUIS, observed our exit from the sound and fired a torpedo at the rapidly moving ship. Our luck held and the torpedo didn't find us and the presence of ARROW made it too risky for the submarine commander to try again. Our high speed rendered our own sonar useless and we were blissfully unaware of the close shave we had.
13/14th MAY: ALACRITY tasked with supporting GLASGOW who had been damaged by Argentine bombs on the 12th.
15th MAY: ALACRITY invited to drop off special forces personnel wilst making our second passage through Falkland Sound and completing the check for mines. Minesweeping becoming a habit (and another special meal). After a fast and rough passage and with as much machinery shut down as possible to limit detection by the enemy,ALACRITY slid past Fanning Head . in the mouth of Grantham Sound two Gemini inflatables were launched and conveyed men of the special forces ashore. These 'Sneaky Beakies' were held in some awe by the ship's company but this author overheard one SAS man share with his colleague that he was full of admiration for the stoicism and humour of sailors who were 'trapped' in a thin metal hull and not able individually to defend themselves against so many threats! Inter-Service respect is a vital element in any war and there was lots of it about.
The boats took much longer than expected to return: a problem cutting through the swathes of kelp but what sailor could resist taking a few minutes to select a Falkland's rock to bring back for their captain's birthday? The rock is now a treasured possession of Chris Craig. Thankfully, for a second time, we found no mines adn the morning found us racing back to the main battle group.
16th MAY : Invited to sink a ditched Sea King from which the crew had escaped to safety. Sunk with small arms fire without the attached torpedoes exploding!
21st MAY: After a number of attacks by Argentine aircraft, ARDENT was sunk with the loss of 22 men killed and 37 wounded. It took 17 bombs and missiles to sink her but the Argentine attention to the warships saved the troops ashore from serious attack. This important function of the Naval vessels was never explored in the media but the warships were used as tempting targets for the Argentine Air Force. With only brief moments to make their attack decisions (partly due to the local terrain and partly the fire from ships and shore batteries) the Argentine pilots chose the small ships as their targets and in doing so allowed the amphibious landings and support to go ahead unhindered.
23rd MAY: ANTELOPE destroyed when an unexploded Argentine bomb detonated as a bomb disposal team tried to diffuse it. ALACRITY with ARROW escort RFAs into the Sound.